ACC Championship preview: Clemson


Clemson has completed a highly dominant 9-1 season, despite their star quarterback Trevor Lawrence sitting out two games due to testing positive for Covid-19. One of those games being against Notre Dame, in which Clemson lost by 7 in overtime. Clemson will now match up again with Notre Dame on Saturday, December 19 for the ACC Championship while also giving Lawrence a chance to prove himself against the Irish this time around. 

Clemson’s season started off very well with easy wins over Wake Forest, Virginia, Citadel, and even a blowout win against seventh ranked Miami. They won their fifth game against Georgia Tech by a sound score of 73-7. Lawrence would throw for 404 yards and 5 touchdowns in this game. Clemson would continue to keep the streak going with another easy win over unranked Syracuse 47-21. Lawrence would once again have a spectacular game throwing for 289 yards and 2 touchdowns.

In their seventh game, Clemson went on to play an unranked Boston College team where they struggled, mainly due to Lawrence being out. Boston College was up at half by a solid score of 28-13 until the second half where Clemson put 21 unanswered points on the board to finish out the game. Freshman DJ Uiagalelei came up big for the Tigers, throwing for 342 yards and 2 touchdowns. In Clemson’s next game against the Fighting Irish, the two teams battled into overtime. Uiagalelei would come up big once again throwing for 439 yards and 2 touchdowns, outmatching Ian Book’s 310 yards for only one touchdown. Although Clemson did have a better game through the air, Notre Dame’s run game seemed to be the difference as Clemson was only able to run for a total of 34 rushing yards to Notre Dame’s 208. With this being said, the Fighting Irish were able to close this game out in an intense overtime. 

Clemson finished out it’s last two games of the season with easy wins over Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech. With Lawrence returning after his 10-day suspension, it was pretty obvious that even with Uiagalelei’s talent, Clemson was a much better football team when Lawrence was under center. Lawrence would throw for 403 yards and 2 touchdowns against Pitt, and then follow it up with a sub-par performance against Virginia Tech where he only threw for 200 yards and 1 touchdown. 

With all of the talk over Lawrence and Uiagalelei, another big part of Clemson’s offense came from Travis Ettiene. Even though he has been a bit quiet this year, Ettiene has the potential to come up with big games as we have seen in his past years with Clemson. Since we already know Clemson has no problem moving the ball through the air, what will really be the telling story is who can run the ball better. With that being said, Clemson has a great shot if Ettiene can come up with a big game like we know he can do. Clemson’s defense may also be a big factor in Saturday’s game. Linebacker Jake Venables did a fantastic job filling in for the injured Salaski, but Venables is now out himself with a broken arm. Salaski is back in the starting lineup, but hasn’t played in two months and is still not 100%. Even with that being said, Clemson’s defense still is good enough to hold its own with any team, even with injuries. For Notre Dame to win this game, Ian Book would have to have another exceptional game through the air. Even though Book was able to throw for over 300 yards in the last contest, I don’t see it happening again with the Tiger’s elite pass defense and their heavy blitz strategy. On the flip side, if the Irish defense is able to contain Lawrence, then they might have a chance; however, I once again don’t see that happening considering how exceptional Lawrence is night in and night out.

With all of this being said, Notre Dame is the obvious underdog. If we really get down to it, they just don’t have the talent that a team like Clemson has. Although, it will be interesting to see what happens on Saturday and if the Irish somehow do get an upset.

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ACC Championship preview: Notre Dame